Search for Fugitive Wanted in Connection with Texas Mass Shooting Continues
The search for Francisco Oropesa, alleged to be the gunman who killed five people in a house in Cleveland, Texas, on Friday evening, continues for a fourth day on Tuesday. Authorities consider Oropesa armed and dangerous, and local, state, and federal agencies are offering an $80,000 award for information that will lead to his capture.
Two reports that a man fitting Oropesa’s description in nearby Conroe, Texas, prompted school lockdowns on Monday, but after a major search operation, Oropesa was not discovered. It is believed the reports were mistaken.
Over the weekend, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that they had no leads on the fugitive, and no news of legitimate leads have been reported since.
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After 11 p.m. local time on the evening of Friday, 28 April, in a low-population-density neighborhood in Cleveland, approximately 45 miles northeast of Houston, members of a household called authorities complaining about shooting coming from their neighbor’s yard. Wilson Garcia then confronted Oropesa, asking him to stop shooting because it was upsetting his 6-week-old baby.
According to survivors, Oropesa stormed into the house shooting an AR-15 assault rifle, killing a man, three women, and one child. According to the Houston Chronicle, at least two of the women killed were shielding children with their bodies.
The Chronicle report says that as the incident was unfolding, at least one person in the house on the phone with 911 emergency personnel and was told that police were already on the scene, though the police did not arrive until 30 minutes after the incident.
Neighbors and advocates are blasting the police, saying the slow response time is why the fugitive has not been found. The story that is emerging regarding the slow response time is one of too few resources to cover emergency calls in the rural Texas county.
One neighbor seems to inadvertently highlight the problem as quoted in the Chronicle article: “If they wouldn’t have taken so long to get out here, they would’ve found him. I’ve called the sheriff over 100 times this year. They don’t do anything.”
The San Jacinto County Sheriff’s office said there were three officers on duty Friday evening, and they had to cover the county’s 700 square miles.
A sheriff in Galveston County, which is east of Houston and a bit further away from Cleveland, Texas, said, “"In all honesty, we've had this happen in different parts of our county, someone will call and say they could hear shooting," Trochesset said. "Well, there's no law against discharging a firearm in an unincorporated area. If it's making someone unsafe, that's another thing."
Texas Governor Greg Abbott sparked controversy by saying the victims were illegal immigrants, a statement his office had to correct when it was discovered that at least one of the victims was in the country legally. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said the comment was offensive and meant to devalue the victims.
“LULAC firmly believes that every human being, regardless of their immigration status, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” LULAC State Director Rodolfo Rosales, Jr., told The New York Times.
Immigration officials also reported that Oropesa is a Mexican national who has been deported four times. He was originally deported in 2009. After returning illegally, he was deported again later that year and subsequently in 2012 and 2016. While no circumstances for his initial deportation have been reported, the 2012 deportation came after he was convicted of driving while intoxicated.
It is also not known how Oropesa allegedly came into possession of the AR-15 used in the attack. Authorities recovered the discarded weapon soon after arriving at the scene Friday night. However, authorities have reason to believe he may still be armed as the search for him continues and tension remains high in the region.
One person in a nearby community interviewed by the Houston Chronicle after police had searched his property for Oropesa said the community has been on edge since the shooting.
“We take care of our own around here,” Montie Graham said. “I’m licensed to carry, I’m locked and loaded, and I’m ready.”